PIKE CREEK — It was wet and physical, and for the first 60 minutes, it was scoreless. But Saint Mark’s finally got on the board, the first of three Spartans goals in the final 20 minutes in a 3-0 boys soccer win over McKean on Nov. 2.
The light rain that had been falling most of the afternoon disappeared in the middle of the first half, but the grass at McKean was slick, contributing to a faster pace than one might normally see on a natural surface. That pace was interrupted frequently by rough play by both teams, with several verbal warnings and a few yellow cards being employed by the officials.
A lively crowd braved the dampness and cool temperatures, and they were treated to a matchup that potentially could be replayed in the upcoming Division II state tournament.
After an eventful yet scoreless first half, the Spartans came out firing in the second. Matt Cox had a chance to score in the 52nd minute when he was awarded a free kick from 45 yards out. His shot was ticketed for the top of the net, but McKean goalkeeper Breandon Zamora-Plascencia leapt and punched the ball over the net. It was his second such save of the evening. Two minutes later, a Spartans chip shot bounced off the crossbar.
The Highlanders took their shot in the 55th when Spartans keeper Andrew Wenger was called for grabbing a ball outside the 18-yard box. The resulting free kick, with Ryan Betts in net, sailed through the football uprights.
That call seemed to fire up the Spartans. They attacked on a counter in the 60th minute, and Kieran O’Connor drilled a turnaround shot that curled as it sailed over the head of Zamora-Plascencia into the net for the 1-0 lead.
A corner kick in the 70th resulted in the second Spartans tally. Saint Mark’s chipped a ball high that was knocked out toward the top of the 18-yard box, but Daniel Otlowski was there to send the rebound low through traffic into the net.
Sean Abrams added the final goal in extra time from a sharp angle to the keeper’s left.
Final statistics were not available Tuesday night. Saint Mark’s (12-2) wraps up the regular season on Thursday at MOT Charter at 3:45 in a game that was postponed from last week. The Highlanders (10-3) had a seven-game winning streak snapped. They end their regular season on Thursday at 4 p.m. at Mount Pleasant.
Both teams will qualify for the Division II state tournament; the 12-team bracket will be announced Friday.
All photos by Mike Lang.